SCOTUS declines to hear challenge to Maryland bump-stock ban

Following a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2017, Maryland was one of the first states to ban bump stocks, a device used by the gunman that allowed him to fire at a higher rate of speed, ultimately killing dozens of individuals.

Gun rights organizations soon voiced their opposition, but the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the statewide ban.

Background on the legal challenge

The nation’s highest court did not provide additional comment regarding its decision to decline the case.

In an earlier ruling, a lower court dismissed a gun rights advocacy group’s challenge to the law. That ruling was subsequently upheld by a federal appeals court before the case advanced to the Supreme Court.

Maryland lawmakers moved quickly to ban bump stocks after authorities reportedly discovered that rifles found in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room had been equipped with the accessory.

Shortly after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed the legislation outlawing them, however, an advocacy group called Maryland Shall Issue filed a class-action suit challenging the ban on the argument that it is unconstitutional.

“The lawsuit challenges the newly enacted SB 707 on multiple grounds, including as unconstitutional taking of private property under the Takings Claus of the federal Constitution and the Maryland Constitution and as the unlawful seizure of private property under Article 24 of the State Constitution,” the group stated at the time.

“Not the role of the executive”

As written, the bill specified that bump stock devices could not be transported into the state nor could a person “manufacture, possess, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, or receive a rapid-fire trigger activator.”

Even former President Donald Trump pledged to use his executive power to institute a nationwide ban on bump stocks, prompting rare criticism from many in his otherwise loyal base. The resulting action was partially successful, resulting in a policy change regarding the devices by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The new rules were challenged, however, and eventually landed in federal court, where the 2019 ban was essentially shot down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit earlier this year.

“It is not the role of the executive—particularly the unelected administrative state—to dictate,” the court’s ruling said. “Granting the executive the right both to determine a criminal statute’s meaning and to enforce that same criminal statute poses a severe risk to individual liberty.”

At least for the foreseeable future, it appears that the Maryland ban will remain in effect. Other states could follow suit based on the assumption that the Supreme Court does not have an interest in hearing such cases.

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